"Some economists and small business leaders fear Michael Ignatieff is trying to revive employment insurance reforms that proved disastrous to the economy and Liberal political fortunes 38 years ago."
"The Liberal leader is pushing the minority Harper government to adopt a single national standard of 360 hours -- or nine weeks -- of work to qualify for jobless benefits."
"That's very close to the eight-week eligibility rule introduced by Pierre Trudeau's Liberals in 1971, sparking a spike in seasonal unemployment and an electoral backlash that helped cost Trudeau his majority in the 1972 election."
"What happened in '71 to my mind was a policy catastrophe," says University of Ottawa economist David Gray.
To repeat it today "would just be catastrophic for the Canadian economy."
"Back in 1971, the reforms introduced by then-labour minister Bryce Mackasey were blamed for actually increasing the unemployment rate by one to two percentage points. The ranks of seasonal workers swelled as employees, aided and abetted by employers who adjusted their contracts, worked the minimum eight-week qualifying period and went on the dole."
"It opened the floodgates," says Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
"The number (of seasonal fishermen) doubled overnight, literally, because suddenly the dole was available."
"The small-business group, then in its infancy and headed by John Bulloch, led a crusade against Mackasey's '71 reforms. Governments have been tinkering with the EI system ever since, trying to unravel some of the unintended consequences."
"Now, Swift says the CFIB is on the warpath once again, fighting Ignatieff's proposed 360-hour eligibility standard, which she dismisses as "just ludicrous."
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